Hello IFC! After spending a decent sum of time in Europe for a family vacation, flew back from ZRH to JFK via LHR on BA and VS. Obviously I’m not going to review a 75 minute BA flight so let’s pretend my journey started in London. I’m going to (relatively briefly) go over the main aspects of the flight but more importantly I’m going to compare this experience to United’s B764 and Lufthansa’s B748.
Cabin and Seat
Now, because I have questionable intelligence (I didn’t use the word, system, don’t ban me) I didn’t take any pictures of the seat, but this is a pretty good idea of what they looked like (yes, I know this is a 787, it’s pretty much the same)
The seat itself was very comfortable, and the adjustable headrest was a great addition. I’m always a fan of when airlines add adjustable headrests to their seats. Compared to the Virgin A330 I flew in on, this headrest was far superior, which I credit to the leather it’s made of (it’s a solid block of leather, where on the A330 it was one of those fabric headrests with the folding flaps). Seat recline was good, but could’ve been better (I’ll talk about that more later). Each seat also had an IFE system (more on that later), a tray table, and a remote for the IFE, which you can see below.
As a slightly off topic note, I really like the purple VS uses in their cabins. It’s way better than the normal grey or blue.
Here’s my view from 42K. We’re not B748 level yet but it’s not bad.
Food and Drink
The food on this flight was definitely solid and in no way lacking for economy. There was one main meal (lunch) and a so called “Afternoon Tea” (pretty much a small meal). Flight attendants came around with snacks twice in between as well as drinks. The options for lunch were Pesto Pasta, Chili with Meat, and Chicken with Mushroom sauce. I got the Pesto. Side note: my sister got the Chili and it wasn’t really Chili in its soup sense it was more like Indian style sauced meat. Meals came with a cucumber salad, crackers, cheese spread, water, and a pudding.
Not bad at all, for an airplane this is perfectly fine. The pasta was a little bland and the salad was really tasteless but the crackers and cheese spread were delicious (I’d eat it on the ground anyday) and the pudding was good as well. I don’t even know how to describe the “Afternoon Tea”. It was like some weird Pesto sandwich and a sweet roll thing with strawberry jelly and some really weird solid cream cheese. Nonetheless, it tasted pretty good.
I don’t have much to say about this, it was pretty standard. Not bad by anyways but not really amazing either and for economy that’s just fine. I will say I’m happy that the flight attendants constantly went through the cabin offering drinks, that was a nice touch some other airlines (United) need to work on.
Oh boy. So, the IFE looks pretty decent right? Yeah, I thought that too. Much better looking than Lufthansa’s ancient system. Turn it on, it’s still alright. Try to select your language? Hold up, why won’t it respond? Oh right, it’s because it’s not a touchscreen. It is two thousand and nineteen, Virgin Atlantic, wake up. The A330 I flew over had a touchscreen (albeit not very good, but it’s there), why can’t we have one here too? I’m normally not a big IFE guy so I’m not going to gripe that much but I thought that was ridiculous. Regarding the contents of the IFE, I’m not a big movie guy either so I can’t judge that but my sister thought the movies were lacking. One part I really liked about the IFE though was the selection of music including albums like i am > i was, ASTROWORLD, and Scorpion. While I pre-download my music to my phone before flights, it was still a nice touch. But seriously, get a touchscreen, thanks.
One word: average. Virgin Atlantic provided a pillow, blanket, and headphones. I don’t use pillows and blankets on flights, and I bring my own earbuds, but I can only assume the provided amenities were alright. The A340’s bathrooms are reasonably sized, very similar to the A330’s (once again I don’t have a picture). Both mid-aircraft bathrooms had issues halfway through the flight (the sink wouldn’t drain fast enough) but it didn’t negatively affect anything really.
A very solid flight. Aside from the IFE, I don’t have any gripes. Virgin Atlantic performed solidly in almost every category especially food and seat. Pleasantly surprised.
Comparison: VS A346 vs. LH B748. Vs UA B764
Quick disclaimer: The UA B764 was going the other way across the Atlantic but it was still a daytime flight, and it was in an Economy Plus bulkhead but I’m so short that legroom never has any effect on me (on a 29 inch pitch aircraft I still have 3 inches between my knees and the seat in front).
Disclaimer Part 2: VS A346 are being phased out by end of December but I don’t care.
Cabin and Seat
I’m giving this one to VS. I couldn’t find any flaws really in the seat. Like Lufthansa, it’s a 31/17 but felt more spacious than LH. United falls into second place. One main reason for this: United’s headrest on the B764 is not very good and is kind of itchy and annoying sometimes. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, I really like the purple in VS’ cabin. UA’s is just a drab white/grey cabin with blue seats. Lufthansa falls into dead last and while it may be surprising that I’m ranking UA over LH, anyone who’s flown the B748 knows what I’m talking about. The seats are literally made of rocks. You can barely sit for 10 minutes before you start to really feel it in your back. Also, it’s 3-4-3 which can never compete with 2-4-2 or 2-3-2. To Lufthansa’s credit, their seat has the best recline. In addition to leaning back, the cushion (if you can call it that) of the seat slides forward which the other two don’t do. It makes it much more bearable (even comfortable, maybe).
Food and Drink
I’m going to give this one to LH with VS in second. The first meals between the two airlines were pretty similar. I feel like VS gave me a bit more food than LH but LH’s food was better. The pasta I got on LH was pretty flavorful for plane food and the rest was no joke either. The main difference was the second meal. Lufthansa gave a hotdog style roll thing (which was good), while VS’ just felt like a jumble of random food they just threw together. As expected, United comes in last. The one meal I got (pancakes, a morning flight) weren’t bad per se, however there were so few of them. In addition, we only got one more piece of food on that whole flight: snacks (no stroopwafels) an hour before landing. No second meal, so I’m automatically putting them in last place, but I cannot say I’m surprised.
I can’t really decide if LH or VS was better. They were both so similar that I’m just not going pick. United’s still last though. While LH and VS FAs seemed like they at least somewhat enjoyed their job, UA ones seemed uninterested and they only passed through the cabin like once between breakfast and “snacks”, while LH and VS came through 2-4 times.
United’s first? Wow. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: US Carriers almost always nail the IFE. Even on short hauls, the IFEs of UA and DL are very solid. They systems are mostly screen (which makes it feel more modern in my opinion) and they are very responsive as well as have a decent selection of movies. LH is second. Nothing special, just an old clunky system but it works. VS…yeah we’re going to move on (get a touchscreen please).
Since I don’t really use the amenities except the bathrooms, I’m not going to make a big deal out of this section but probably LH first, VS second (because the B748 has insane bathrooms). United didn’t give a blanket and the pillow was semi-dirty so I’m going to put them last.
Which one would I pick? VS in a heartbeat, if London was my origin. There’s no doubt in my heart that you’d have the better experience on the VS A346 than the LH B748 or the UA B764. However, connecting in Heathrow is an absolute nightmare that I don’t want to experience again, so LH isn’t a bad choice either. UA is just…UA, what did you expect. However, if you love IFE then UA may be your best choice out of these three. Best movie selection and a modern system. Even if LH fixed their seats I’d probably still choose VS for the 2-4-2.
Thanks for reading if you made it is far!